Trans-Tasman competition heats up as Virgin adds routes, capacity

April 16, 2018
Virgin Scurrah CEO

Virgin Australia will add two new routes and increase capacity on others as it responds to Air New Zealand’s surprise move to axe the trans-Tasman alliance between the two carriers.

Virgin’s announcement follows a similar move by Air New Zealand, which last week announced it would boost its trans-Tasman presence by 15 percent.

Read Air New Zealand moves quickly to boost Tasman capacity.

Virgin will start flying between Sydney and Wellington with five flights a week and introduce up to four flights a week between Melbourne and Queenstown using Boeing 737-800s sporting eight business class seats.

It will also boost Auckland-Sydney flights to triple daily on weekdays and double daily on weekends as well as increase Auckland-Melbourne to double daily.

Auckland-Brisbane will increase to up to two services per day and up to three on peak days.

But there are also some reductions: Christchurch-Melbourne will reduce from 11 flights per week to a daily service and Brisbane -Wellington will fall from up to 14 services a week to nine.

The changes are effective from October 28, the day after the alliance with Air New Zealand draws to a close.

Virgin Australia Airlines group executive Rob Sharp said the Australian carrier was “Upping its game on the Tasman”.

“As well as increasing frequency on key routes from Auckland, we have also improved the timing of some of our New Zealand flights to better suit the needs of both leisure and business travelers,’’ Sharp said in the route announcement.

“Our entry into the Melbourne-Queenstown market will bring some much-needed competition to the premium leisure sector, with Virgin Australia the only airline to offer Business Class on this route.

“Virgin Australia also offers other unique products such as Economy X featuring extra legroom and priority benefits.”

Sharp said the airline remained committed to the Brisbane-Wellington and Christchurch-Melbourne routes, despite the “small” frequency reductions.

“We have had a strong presence in New Zealand since 2004, and we look forward to bringing more exciting initiatives to this market very soon,” he said

Air New Zealand’s changes include two new routes — Queenstown-Brisbane and Wellington-Brisbane – starting December 18 and capacity increases from Christchurch October 28.

It will also offer 125,000 additional trans-Tasman seats ex Auckland, including a new business timed morning flight to Melbourne, more evening flights to Brisbane and a new middle of the day flight to Sydney.